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Belarus: Opposition Candidate Hopes To Have Broad Public Support

Milinkevich at the congress on 2 October Prague, 3 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Allied Belarusian opposition activists yesterday (2 October) named opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich as their single candidate to challenge President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in next year's presidential election. Milinkevich talked to RFE/RL in a wide-ranging interview.

RFE/RL: Mr. Milinkevich, do you think you have a chance of defeating Lukashenka?

Milinkevich: It's impossible to beat Lukashenka in the elections, because we haven't had real elections in Belarus in a long time. We will use the elections -- which are our constitutional right -- to conduct a broad political campaign. We hope to win this campaign.

RFE/RL: All of Belarusian media is in the hands of the authorities. How do you plan to deliver your message to the voters?

Milinkevich: It's really very difficult. For 10 years already, Belarusian politicians have not been allowed to use radio and television. Nobody ever sees them [on TV]. So it's no wonder they have low ratings. But during these years of dictatorship, we've learned how to use one very good method for making our case. It works even in the West and in democratic countries. It is delivering the message straight to people's doors.

RFE/RL: If any other candidate emerges claiming to represent a democratic alternative to Lukashenka, will you try persuade him to give up his candidacy on your behalf?

Milinkevich: It would be better if one candidate represents all the democratic forces and that was the aim of the congress [that elected Milinkevich] -- to reduce the number of competitors. But we cannot prevent Lukashenka from providing candidates who would work for his sake.

RFE/RL: If you win, would you support Belarus joining the EU and NATO?

Milinkevich: We would like to preserve the current constitution and remain a neutral country. As concerns the EU, of course, cooperation with Europe is extremely important for us because the current regime has taken the country to a state of complete self-isolation.

RFE/RL: What is your attitude regarding a union with Russia?

Milinkevich: As concerns the union with Russia, we -- including the Communists -- think we should be a sovereign independent state that has very good relations and cooperates closely with Russia.

RFE/RL: What is your attitude towards privatization in the country, including the privatization of land?

Milinkevich: Privatization in Belarus will take place. It was frozen at one point because it was being handled by practically only one man -- [Lukashenka] -- and only for his own benefit. He privatized the country. Privatization is needed to give the country a new dynamic. As concerns land, we need to give land to private owners.

RFE/RL: What reforms should have priority in Belarus?

Milinkevich: The main thing is to bring Belarus back to the ranks of civilized countries. We need to restore independence of the three branches of power. We should give freedom to press, and we should start economic reforms.

See also:

"Can The Opposition Unite To Challenge Lukashenka?"

"Belarus: The Slow-Boiling Dictatorship"

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